The Electric Dr. M
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While Scandinavia continues to dominate the so called Nu-Jazz scene, it's easy to forget that there are other less exotic locations where equally vital music is being made. Like the UK for instance. Iain Ballamy put it quite poetically when he suggested that while the press were fawning over the Norwegian scene, at home 'the sparrows were dying on the doorstep'. If that's the case, then at least the Sound label is putting out some food for them by releasing records like this.
Matthew Bourne is the best known member of this outfit. Still in his 20s, he's picked up a number of awards for his eclectic solo piano performances, which can draw on anything from Annette Peacock tunes to Beatles medleys to "Giant Steps", all sewn together by cohesive yet quirky improvisational skills. With a background that includes playing contemporary pieces by Cage and Feldman, Bourne has both enviable technique and a kaleidoscopic range of influences to draw from.
With this lot he sticks to Fender Rhodes and analogue synths and teams up with a pair of drummers, double bass and guitar. If there is a blueprint, it's Mwandishi era Herbie Hancock and the humid avant fusion collisions of records like Sextant. Bourne's use of electronics mirrors the deep space blipscapes of Patrick Gleeson, while filtered loops and samples give a 21st century edginess. The twin drummer/bass axis cook up powerful yet controlled slices of funk, shot through with slabs of pushy drum n' bass.
Chris Sharkey's guitar snakes through a variety of pitchshifters and delays and provides a constant abstract stream of drones and dentist drill outbursts, with nary a fusion lick or 11th chord to be found. Bourne's agile, economicalelectric piano sounds gorgeous; fed through delays, he freezes chords or tiny licks and pushes them into dubspace, sometimes digging in for Zawinul-esque vamps or lush chordal ripplings.
Despite their American influences, Bourne and co have something different about them; it's the kind of openness and humour you'd find in UK jazz of 30 years ago, wherefreeform meanderingsrubbed shoulders with rock vamps and modal blowing. In an ideal world, when the Mercury Prize judges are hunting around for next year's token jazz nomination they'dstart here... --Peter Marsh
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Top customer reviews
The Electric Dr. M seems to be clearly of its time, and to be honest as an old jazz fan I am not sure what to make of it. I am not sure it is jazz. The band plays keyboards, guitar, bass and drums. It is challenging, adventurous music and worth a listen. It has some similarities to what Medeski, Martin and Wood are doing but seems to have more substance.
To some extent the starting points here appear parallel EST, i.e. with the keyboards/drum/double bass - the drummer using modern dance rhythms as well some of the older jazz funk rhythm. In deed, at a couple of points, when I let my mind relax and drift, I could have sworn I had a Herbie Hancock album playing. I too wonder whether I should have listened more to the experimental electronic artists, such as the Aphex Twin (I guess)- are there references here too?
Bourne is a young man with a host of hot ideas and strong opinions - but in their defence, isn't EST music different, typically about extending a theme and building tension - IMHO not long-windedness, so not flatulent? Bourne is clearly impatient to spill his ideas, laying down as many as possible here - this means sudden angular changes of directions within tunes/between tracks. But the music is assessible - I foresee dance djs sampling segments - but there are few obvious melodies and instead an urgency of rhythm, lead and highly coloured by Bourne's keyboards.
And who's Dr M?